Let’s face it, deciding whether or not to use capital letters for people’s job titles is one of those areas where advice seems to head in different directions. The general rule usually applied by newspapers and magazines is to avoid unnecessary capital letters. The collective view is that excessive use of capitals doesn’t look good and isn’t justified.
Guidance from The Times is that capitalisation is the source of great tribulation because too many capital letters are ugly and unnecessary. The Economist’s style guide urges if in doubt, stick to lower case unless it looks wrong. It advises us to dignify with capital letters organisations and institutions, but not people. While The Telegraph says the general presumption is against using caps: job descriptions such as managing director, chairman and chief executive all take lower case.
Unless, that is, your corporate brand rules require them. And why not? You could say a title gives a person respect and value in their role, while initial capitals emphasises this. A rule we encourage our clients to follow is to try to be consistent. If you favour capital letters then one place you can be consistent is between a job role (Joe Smith, Sales Manager) and general job description (a group of sales managers; our engineer training course).
That said, we once had a client whose managing director stood their ground and insisted on capitals when even the global president was content with lower case. It could have posed a tricky problem captioning photos in which both appeared. We took The Economist’s diplomatic advice: “Do not indulge people’s self-importance unless it would seem insulting not to”.